Ezine Header

2006: Issue 8

So, What do you do?

Seems the standard question after initial introductions is something along the lines of “So, what do you do?”  I’d venture to say that we have all asked it, and been asked it, several times over.  Even on the forms we complete before seeing our healthcare professionals, the question is present, and the standard answer is for you to state a simple reply – physician; accountant; billing specialist; coach; administrator, etc. 

While taking coaching classes, I was repeatedly challenged to create a different answer to this question, providing a more descriptive answer with the intention of intriguing the questioner to want to learn more.  Suffice to say I am still working on that; probably no surprise to you who know me for pat answers and repetition are not my thing.  However, most of my latest responses include the phrase, “… work with those who defy the law of average in …”, ending it with an ad lib based on who I am talking to.   Perhaps most important, however, is that the exercise has truly caused me to think about what it is I do. 

Recently I had a somewhat disturbing reminder of the importance and power of our answer to that defining question.  I have been working closely with a family friend as he deals with the side effects of the radiation and chemotherapy he received to treat his lung cancer.  As the family was grappling with the grimness of his situation, his wife was expressing her anger and frustration to one of the treating specialist physicians.  While he probably said much more, what she remembers him saying quite emphatically is “Shirley, my job was to kill the cancer and I did that.”  Clearly there is more to this story, and admittedly, I have taken it out of context simply because I find it such a poignant reminder of the power of our modus operandi to the question, “what do you do?”

Indeed, as the radiation oncologist, this is his charge; yet, I can’t help but wonder what my friend’s condition would be if the physician had a broader definition of his role.   True, it could be no different, and frankly, my purpose in telling you this is not to question the physician.  Rather hoping it will lead you to pause and reflect on your answer to the question “what do I do”; specifically your internal answer for it has tremendous influence over your behavior, actions, and ultimately, your spoken answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”  

We have the natural tendency to give the socially correct answer to the question, “what do you do?”  As well, we have the tendency to expect that simple answer when asking the question.  Answers such as: “I’m a physician.”; “I work in the hospital’s admissions department”; “I’m the COO.”;   “I’m a nurse in MSICU.”   All valid answers, and yet aren’t we so much more? 
Some would consider this creating a mission statement or identifying our purpose as we discussed in our last ezine.  And it can be.  It is also about leveraging our potential for positive influence.   


  1. Give some thought to what it is you truly do.
  2. Expand your mental reframe to the question, identifying some descriptors to what has been your standard answer. 
  3. Consider answering the question differently next time someone does ask, “So, what do you do?”


Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

David Scheiderer, MD, MBA
Executive Coach

Tiberius Rx ... written for professionals who defy the law of average and want to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world."
– Arthur Schopenhauer

"Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you."
– Miguel de Unamuno


On April 30 & May 1, Janet will be leading a 2 day retreat for Executive Directors of Virginia’s Free Clinics, After All, It is ALL about You!

On May 3, Janet will be facilitating a DiSC workshop for the staff of Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council.